Sister Roberta (not her real name) isn't a nun -- her sisterhood being of a freelance variety. She wears long calico skirts and keeps her hair in a bun, and has a demeanor that a friend of mine describes as "high eyebrow" -- intense in a sort of scary, revelation-in-process way. She sprinkles her conversation with ye olde King James English. She runs a mission in South Elsewhere, at the opposite end of the county from Outer Podunk, where she collects anything -- clothing, appliances -- to give to the poor. She's locally known for taking stuff that the local Catholic mission, a relatively fastidious establishment managed by a kindly elderly couple, won't accept.
For the past year or so Sister Roberta has turned her high-eyebrowed glare toward the topic of homosexuality. Every month or so she writes an angry letter to the local newspapers, calling down God's wrath on gay people. A recent letter noted, "My word to the gays is to go back into their closets to pray." (Hey, guess what, Sister?...) "I believe that by saying God blesses the gay lifestyle is [sic] a lie right out of the pit of hell to destroy mankind." "You give the devil an inch, and he thinks he's a ruler!" (Mind out of the gutter, LC...) She gets a lot of epistolary mileage out of Adam-and-Eve-not-Adam-and-Steve.
You'd think that, considering her mission's clientele, she'd be writing letters to the editor about issues like state legislators who want to balance their budget on the backs of the poorest and sickest members of our society, the people with the least ability to advocate on their own behalf...or about business and governmental leaders with no vision, no ideas about how to transform Michigan's obsolete smokestack economy so that its citizens can enjoy meaningful work that pays a living wage...or about complacent, comfortable "good Christians" who have a hard time turning their attention from their next trip to the outlet mall or their newest garage-toy to the needs of "the least of these" in their communities. No -- it's the gay folks who piss off Sister Roberta.
Because of the nature of my employment, I am not at liberty to express public opinions about anything, so I have to quietly grind the enamel off my molars here in the privacy of my home as I read her screeds, and depend upon the kindness of strangers to counter her letters to the editor. (And we do have a brave PFLAG family in our area whose members engage Sister Roberta very eloquently, letter by letter.)
Here's the weird thing, though. I find myself, lately, really wanting to show up one day at Sister Roberta's mission with a sackful of clothes. Not my Coat of Many Colors, mind you, because that would just be mean. And not to mix it up with her. But just bring her some culled clothing, and try to make eye contact, and say, "Do you know someone who could use these?" I'd just like her to begin to understand that I'm not some exotic species of demon released from the pits of hell. That I bring clothing to missions, and groceries to the food bank. That I pray. (In and out of my closet.) That I may be more like her than she thinks I am. I'm not sure where this is coming from -- if it's a prophetic impulse, or simple cheekiness, or a manifestation of my needy desire to have everyone in the whole world like me, all the time. But I just might do it, one of these days.